Support

If you have any question or problem about SparkChess, first of all be sure that we'll be doing everything humanly possible to assist you.

We've compiled your most frequent questions on this page. Simply click on a headline to expand the section and the question.

If your question is not included here, please contact us and we'll do our best to respond within one business day.

Quick links

Frequent Questions and Answers

General chess-related questions

The enemy pawn advanced to the last row and then a second black queen appeared - Why?

That is a Promotion; a pawn will be promoted to queen (or other piece) if it reaches the last rank. Please consult the official chess rules for details.

I just moved my pawn two squares and then it disappeared!

Most likely you were the victim of an en-passant take. Don't feel too bad, many casual players don't know about it. Please consult the official chess rules for details.

Why can't I castle? How do I castle?

To castle, you move the king to the desired position - if castling is available, the rook will be moved automatically. Castling is not possible if the king or the rook has moved; or if the king is in check; or if one of the squares the king must travel is controlled by an enemy piece. According to the official FIDE rules, you can castle if the king was in check previously.

Your chess engine is too hard! Help!

Try playing on Beginner (Cody). If you download the Full Version, you have access to some help tools that will help you make better moves.

Your chess engine is too easy! Is that the best you can do?

Congratulations! You must be an advanced player; most likely you've played in tournaments. Our Chess AI was created to be fun and quick, not brutally strong. If you are an advanced player, you can still enjoy SparkChess' multiplayer or by using its Board Editor and the PGN/Replay features.

Playing chess online

I see both SparkChess and flashCHESS mentioned. What's the difference between them?

They are the same product. When we created the first game engine in 2002, we called it flashCHESS. Later, in 2008 the third generation of the engine, rewritten from scratch, took the web by storm and we wanted to keep the name due to its heritage, naming it flashCHESS III. Later, to prevent any trademark complaints from Adobe regarding the use of "Flash", we decided to rename the game as SparkChess.

SparkChess 7 is our newest release.

SparkChess® is registered trademark.

Is playing SparkChess online free?

Yes. Online play is free, although we display unobtrusive ads from Google. If you prefer not seeing the ads, you can download the standalone version of the game.

Why do you show ads?

The tools used to build the game are rather expensive. On top of that, there is the hosting, bandwidth, SSL certificates, code signing certificates, that must be considered. At the time of writing, we have about 1,500,000 unique monthly visitors, consuming a total of 500 GB of bandwidth. We are using a CDN and a performance monitoring service to maintain the quality of service.

Downloading and installing the Full Version

I want to play the game without opening the browser, like a normal program; is that possible?

Yes. SparkChess is available as a standalone application on many platforms.

What platforms does your chess game work on?

SparkChess is available on:

I'm on Linux - is SparkChess available for me?

Linux support has proved problematic given the myriad of distros and configurations. You can get SparkChess for Google Chrome on Linux (or Chromium). You should also be able to run the Windows build with WINE.

I bought the game, but I didn't receive an email or download link. What should I do?

Most likely the email sent to you was flagged as spam by your mail server or email application. Please check your Spam/Junk folder. If you can't find it, please contact us. We'll do our best to reply to you in 24-48 hours and will send you the game.

I downloaded the game but I can't find it. Do I need to buy it again?

No. Start by a) looking at your Downloads History (press CTRL+J in your browser to see the list) or b) looking into your Downloads folder or c) searching your computer files for "sparkchess". If you can't find it or in the event you lost all the information on your computer, please contact us. At a minimum we'll need the email address you used when purchasing but providing more details (payment method, transaction ID, receipt) will help speed up the process.

How can I upgrade to the latest version?

If you own an older version, you can upgrade using this upgrade form.

How do I install it on Google Chrome?

The preferred method is to install the game through the Chrome Web Store. If you have the CRX game file purchased directly from our site, please be advised that due to changes in Google Chrome, you may not be able to install it anymore. Please contact us if that's the case.

SparkChess is grayed-out in Chrome and I can't play it anymore.

Google is now disabling all extensions and applications not installed through Chrome Web Store. Their rationale is that some of these extensions may have been installed without approval. There is no mechanism for users to whitelist or manually override this behavior. Also, Google gave no advance notice given to users of this change (we informed all our customers by email). If you are affected by this, we have a number of options, so please contact us to find the best solution for you. One quick solution is to switch to Chrome "dev" version, a more advanced version of Chrome for Developers; there should be no downside in switching to Chrome Dev and your settings will be preserved.

Why was Sparkchess being sold outside the Chrome Web store?

Paid apps are available in Chrome Web Store only to buyers and sellers from 20 countries; our players are from over 100 countries. Chrome Web Store does not offer any way to give discounts, process refunds or do paid upgrades. There's no specialized support channel for Chrome Web Store, not even to us developers - only public forums. Although we're a very small team, we're committed to our customers. We believed (and still do) that we'd serve you better with a custom-built payment system, even if that meant additional costs for us.

How do I install it on Android?

Now the preferred installation method is through Google Play.

We used to offer the game directly through our site so the following applies only for those who bought SparkChess directly from us: To install SparkChess on Android you must set your tablet to accept installations from outside Google Play. Go to Settings -> Applications and check the "Unknown Sources" option if it's not already selected. Then you may download the SparkChess APK file either on a computer or directly on the Android device and tap on it to install.

Payment

What exactly does the payment represent?

Your payment represents a one-time license fee. Like most software, SparkChess is licensed, not sold. The license is perpetual (does not expire). Read next question and answer to see what's included.

What am I actually getting?

You get a license to use the game, access to the multiplayer service and free "point-releases" - that's it, if you buy version 7.0, you'll get version 7.1 through 7.9 for free, but not 8.0. Point-releases contain mostly bug fixes and improvements of existing functionality.

Does multiplayer cost extra?

No. There are no monthly fees or subscriptions. Multiplayer access is free for the current version. If there's a newer release than your version, multiplayer may or may not work, depending on the additional functionality we've added. We do our best to maintain backwards compatibility but we cannot guarantee it.

Do I have to upgrade when a new release is available?

We certainly recommend you to upgrade, but the decision is up to you. Upgrading gives you access to new features and may correct any bugs we discovered. Also, as we improve and expand the multiplayer service, it may become incompatible with the older versions. The single-player experience never expires so you may continue to use the game for as long as you want.

What payment methods are available?

The Desktop version of SparkChess (Windows, Mac and Chrome) is sold primarily through PayPal We like PayPal because it benefits both ourselves as seller and you as buyer. Because Paypal's fees are very small, we can keep the prices low. You also get security (their security record is the best in industry and we don't get to see your credit card details) and protection in case of disputes. You don't even need to have a PayPal account.

On All Downloads page we list alternative payment methods.

SparkChess for iPhone/iPad is sold through AppStore and SparkChess for Android is available on Google Play, Amazon Appstore and Samsung's store.

Multiplayer chess questions

Is the multiplayer service free?

Yes. There are no monthly fees, no subscriptions and no in-app payments.

Is there a difference regarding multiplayer between the free SparkChess and the Full Version?

Yes. Paying customers have priority access to the service and are also able to use the Chat feature. Free users can play only if the server capacity is below a certain threshold and have limitations on the number of games they can play daily. There are many other subtle differences, for example a free user account has a score cap of 10,000 points.

How is the multiplayer score calculated?

The principle is simple: Each player starts with 1000 points (2000 points for Full/Premium users). When you defeat someone by checkmate, you win 10% of their score and they lose the same amount. This way, you will win more if you defeat a player with a high score, on the idea that you managed to win against a more powerful player. If the game ends in Draw or Stalemate, no points are given to either party. If a player resigns or disconnects, the formula is more complex, based on the number of moves in the game, if any player was in check at the time and which player had the overall advantage. This way we want to discourage cheating (disconnecting when at clear disadvantage). For a discussion about our score vs. Elo, see the next question.

Why is not an Elo rating used?

Elo is the standard rating system for chess, recognized and understood by chess players worldwide. However Elo works best in controlled environments where cheating can be minimized. Online chess play is unsupervised. Players can cheat systematically, internet connections may drop and Elo would be meaningless because it takes into account just wins, losses and draws. Our system awards points even when the game terminates abruptly, user behavior and more. In the future we may combine Elo with our own scoring system.

Is it safe for a child to play SparkChess online?

We are parents ourselves and we've taken reasonable steps to make SparkChess Multiplayer a fun and safe environment for kids. Children under 13 do not provide any personable-identifiable information and may not use the Chat feature. We believe this is the safest way to ensure that they are not exposed to inappropriate language (filtering is done for English only). We do recommend parental involvement in any online multiplayer game. If you notice offensive words being used in usernames, we encourage you to submit them to our attention.

Filtering the players by subnet will only show players connected from the same network - usually the same physical location.

How do you handle abusive users and cheaters?

We do not tolerate bullying, cheating or any other abusive behavior. If you have knowledge of such actions, please report the user's nickname and their behavior.

Can SparkChess work behind firewalls?

Yes, if you can browse the web, you should be able to use the multiplayer service.

I can't connect. Help!

SparkChess Multiplayer was designed to connect through firewalls. Generally speaking, if you can browse the web, you should be able to use the service. If you can't connect and the Server Dashboard above reports that the server is up and running and if you have the free version of SparkChess, the most likely cause is that you've exceeded the maximum number of daily matches or that there are too many players connected (users of SparkChess Full have priority).

How reliable is the multiplayer service?

Over 25,000 people use the SparkChess Multiplayer service every day. SparkChess Multiplayer is built using Union Platform by User1 and hosted by by leaders in cloud servers. In short, it doesn't get any better than this in terms of speed and network reliability. The quality of service is monitored 24/7. While we do our best to keep the whole system running smoothly, it is a "best effort" service, provided with no guarantees. Why? Because it's a free service. Rather than offering multiplayer for a select few at $5/month, we're making it available for everyone.

I get disconnected unexpectedly, why?

Before anything else, try changing your password. If someone else connects with your username, you will get disconnected. It's possible for someone to guess your password, so use a strong password.

If you get disconnected when someone else in your location connects with a different username: Multiple connections from one IP address are supported (if your office or home is behind a NAT) but problems may arise depending on the specific network configuration - firewalls, proxies, etc. We're in constant contact with User1 (the company responsible for the multiplayer system), testing various network configurations.

Finally, SparkChess Multiplayer constantly monitors players' internet connection. If a connection is lost, even for a relatively brief period (1-2 minutes), the user is disconnected from the service. There's a fine balance that we must keep between reliability and performance. Dropped calls happen even with paid services when dealing with multi-billion cell companies. At the same time, many of the SparkChess Multiplayer users like to remain connected for more than 2 days continuously. Having said that, we're constantly working to improve the quality of service.

Did my account disappear?

Free accounts may be removed if unused for prolonged periods. From time to time we purge inactive accounts. The "grace period" is dynamic and calculated based on many factors. We do want to reward active users and we need to conserve resources (storage is not free and having a few Gb of unused accounts doesn't help); we also need to backup the databases and maintain them, which require more CPU power.

Full Version users' accounts are never removed.

How does filtering work?

Because the number of available players is changing constantly, Full Version owners may filter the Invitation list based on their preferences.

Currently the following filters are available:

- by score: with this filter enabled, only players within 10% of your score will be shown. So if you have 1000 points, you'll see only players with at least 900 points and at most 1100 points.
- by subnet: The filtering is done by IP address. Only players with IP addresses from your "virtual neighborhood" are shown (technically speaking it's a Class-C subnet). This usually means only players from the same building or block, although it depends on your Internet provider. This mode is perfect when you want to play with a coworker or at home with another person in the same house.
- by country: only players determined to be in the same country as you are shown. This method may not be always available. Players who've just created accounts may not have their country determined yet.

We should mention that your location (both the IP and the country) are safe. Another player cannot learn your physical location. Your IP address is converted into a "fingerprint" (technically a one-way hash).

How do I stop posting my victories on Facebook?

Login to the Multiplayer service, then from the main (invitation) window, go to My Account and click on the blue Facebook "logout" button. That's it. If you want to post the victories again, click on the same button again to login. You can deauthorize SparkChess completely from your Facebook App Center.

Currently the following filters are available:

- by score: with this filter enabled, only players within 10% of your score will be shown. So if you have 1000 points, you'll see only players with at least 900 points and at most 1100 points.
- by subnet: The filtering is done by IP address. Only players with IP addresses from your "virtual neighborhood" are shown (technically speaking it's a Class-C subnet). This usually means only players from the same building or block, although it depends on your Internet provider. This mode is perfect when you want to play with a coworker or at home with another person in the same house.
- by country: only players determined to be in the same country as you are shown. This method may not be always available. Players who've just created accounts may not have their country determined yet.

We should mention that your location (both the IP and the country) are safe. Another player cannot learn your physical location. Your IP address is converted into a "fingerprint" (technically a one-way hash).

Other topics

What are the engine technical specs?

SparkChess uses an in-house developed chess engine that uses alpha-beta pruning with principal variation, iterative deepening and aspiration window. It also uses quiescence, history heuristics and transposition tables (saved searchers and evaluations) to speed up the processing. It has an opening database with about 7000 moves.

The AI personalities use the following engine settings:

- Cody: legal moves with captures ordered first but scrambled, but virtually no insight;
- Claire: looks 3 plies ahead + quiescence;
- Boris: looks 5-6 plies ahead + quiescence, limited to 10 seconds;
- Guru: looks up to 10 plies ahead+ quiescence, limited to 3 minutes.

How long did it take to make the game?

The original version took about three months, not including the time spent studying algorithms. The game is in active development in its fourth year. We make one major release each year and a few minor releases.

What plans for improvements do you have?

We'll be listening to feedback from all players and add the features they want the most. Our goal is to make people think 'Chess is Fun!'. SparkChess has been in active development for the last 4 years, with new features being added and refined.

 

 

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